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Nation in brief

Navy plans to go ahead with sonar project

By wire services
Published October 23, 2005

WASHINGTON - The Navy is moving ahead with plans to build a 500-square-mile sonar training range off the coast of North Carolina, officials said last week, a project that has sparked fierce opposition from environmentalists who say some of the world's most endangered whales and sea turtles pass through the area.

Planning for the $99-million range has been under way for almost 10 years, but environmental challenges and concern that the sound waves from sonar may harm protected marine mammals have held up the process. The Navy published its draft environmental impact statement Friday and will begin a series of public hearings on the proposal next month.

The proposed site, about 50 miles off North Carolina, was selected to provide the Atlantic fleet with training in the use of sonar in coastal areas, where the Navy believes the greatest submarine threats now exist. Marine mammal researchers and environmentalists have grown increasingly alarmed over the Navy's plans and the potentially damaging effects of active sonar, which sends out very loud blasts of underwater sound.

Technology contractor overbills, U.S. audit finds

WASHINGTON - Federal auditors say the prime contractor on a $1-billion technology contract to improve the nation's transportation security system overbilled taxpayers for as much as 171,000 hours' worth of labor and overtime by charging up to $131 an hour for employees who were paid less than half that amount.

Three years ago, the Transportation Security Administration hired Unisys Corp. to create a state-of-the-art computer network linking thousands of federal employees at hundreds of airports to the TSA's high-tech security centers.

The project is costing more than double the anticipated amount per month, and the network is far from complete - nearly half of the nation's airports have yet to be upgraded. Government officials said last week that the initial $1-billion contract ceiling was only a starting point for the project, which they recently said could end up costing $3-billion.

[Last modified October 23, 2005, 01:21:14]

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